Next time you sit down to a slice of toast and honey for breakfast at the hotel restaurant, it may be worth asking where that honey came from.

Spring has sprung, and with it, a new hotel trend is blooming. More and more establishments in the environmentally-aware hotel world are keeping bees, both to provide a plentiful supply of natural honey for hotel chefs and to help the local environment.

At the Westin Annapolis in the US state of Maryland, which recently installed two hives on its roof, executive chef James Barrett plans to use the honey in dishes such as honey lacquered hot smoked salmon and old bay honey cashew brittle.

"Once it is harvested, we plan to make the honey a signature item," he explained. "We'll use it in everything from daily food specials to an extra special, leave-behind for sales calls in special 2-ounce jars embossed with the hotel logo and a honey bee."

The Ritz-Carlton Charlotte, North Carolina also has ambitious plans for the 140 pounds of natural honey it expects to produce every year. By surrounding the hives with fresh lavender plants, it hopes that the 60,000 bees will produce a distinctive tasting nectar.

"Because honey is considered the flavor of the land, it is likely that the bees' rooftop habitat and pollination of our herb garden will lend a wonderful, unique flavor to their honey," outlined Jon Farace, executive chef at the hotel.

Aside from pleasing the palate, however, the new apiaries are playing a vital part in raising depleted bee populations. For the past few years, western countries have faced an inexplicable collapse in colony numbers, sometimes by as much as 50 percent.

As bees play a vital role in crop pollination, a continuing fall could have serious consequences for our own food supplies.

Fairmont, which has six hotels around the world with apiaries, works hard to try to get this message across to guests - "Fairmont Hotels & Resorts knows how important these little guys are," says the chain.

At the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club resort, guests can attend lectures by local beekeeper Stephen Macharia, while the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver offers weekly hive tours conducted by resident beekeeper, Graeme Evans.